Capell named next Camas city administrator

Three candidates were interviewed for the position

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A longtime Clark County employee has accepted an offer to become the next Camas city administrator.

Camas Mayor Scott Higgins announced Friday that Peter S. Capell, current Clark County public works director, has been given a conditional offer of employment, pending reference and background checks.

He is expected to start Monday, Jan. 6.

“Pete brings a great deal of experience to us and we are very fortunate to have him agree to work with us,” Higgins said. “Camas is a city that will continue to attract business and positive growth and Pete is uniquely prepared to help guide us through those changes.”

Higgins said Capell will be a high quality leader for the city’s 175 full time equivalent employees who serve 20,320 residents.

“I am thrilled. I feel like a weight has been lifted,” he said, describing his relief about completing the selection process. “I feel like we got an excellent selection in Pete.”

The other finalists were Joe Hannan, current Mukilteo city administrator; and Peter M. Mayer, former Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation director and current deputy director and chief operations officer of the Snohomish Health District in Everett.

Capell, 57, has worked for Clark County since February 1997, when he was hired as county engineer. In May 2000, he was promoted to public works director, where he manages a staff of 250 employees who are responsible for roads, parks, storm water, wastewater and the county fleet. The department is responsible for construction, operations and maintenance of county infrastructure.

Capell, who holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Oregon State University, said he is looking forward to the new experience working in Camas city government.

“I am really happy. I’m excited,” he said. “I have been [with Clark County] for 17 years, and in the same job for 14. It’s healthy to go do some different things, and find some new challenges and new opportunities. And, the last year the county has been heading in a little different direction, so I thought it was time for a change.”

Prior to even applying for the position, Capell sat in the audience during several Camas City Council meetings.

“I have a great position where I am at now,” he explained. “I was just trying to get a feel for the Council, the environment, and some of the key issues to make sure this was a good move for me. You spend so much of your life at work, I can’t imagine accepting a job if you didn’t know anything about the people you are going to work for and the people you are going to work with.”

Capell said the tone of Camas City Council meetings are a stark contrast to Clark County Commission meetings, where the public often packs the Public Service Center hearing room and public comment can take an hour or longer.

According to Capell, he will step into the Camas city administrator position without any preconceived priorities.

“I think that will be something that develops as I get to know the people, and learn about and develop relationships with staff and elected officials,” he said.

Higgins interviewed Capell after the three finalists were interviewed by a panel that included Councilwoman Melissa Smith, financial consultant Paul Lewis, Human Resources Director and Acting City Administrator Jennifer Gorsuch, former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen, Port of Camas-Washougal Executive Director David Ripp and Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey.

Smith described Capell as enthusiastic, engaging, and direct with his answers to the panel’s questions.

“We got someone who is solid and well-respected in the community,” she said. “Feelings and anticipations are high. I think [city employees] are going to be energized and happy about the choice. We are going to start the year off right.”

As Camas city administrator, Capell will earn a monthly salary of $10,971 per month, plus benefits. He currently lives in East Vancouver with his wife, Kris, and he said they plan to move to Camas. The couple has three grown children and four grandchildren.

Capell described Camas as a city that has been run well, without any glaring problems or issues.

“But everything can always improve,” he explained. “It’s more of a continuous improvement process and always trying to enhance something, and not necessarily to fix what is broken.”